Posted by: Monideepa Tarafdar | February 27, 2011

Witness

My mother sent me an email link to pictures that she has, over the years, taken of my father. Many pictures. As I looked at my father in all manner of poses, sometimes aware that my mother was clicking, many times not so, I saw a procession of the everyday activities that my parents carry out.

There is one where my father is stirring sugar in his tea. Morning, and since my father retired, afternoon, tea times are for talking, sipping, sharing, taking stock. When we were growing up,  those few minutes they spent  drinking tea together while we were still in bed, were perhaps the only ones during the day when they could talk uninterrupted about them and us.

Another one has my father raking soil in a planter with a sapling next to it. Every winter, my parents drive down to a few nurseries and get seedlings, which my father plants into pots or in the garden. Every winter my mother sends us pictures of roses, chrysanthemums and dahlias – they stand pretty and varied and happy on the terrace or the lawn. Every winter they create a garden, much like they created “us”.

Then there are the Sudoku pictures. Furrowed brows and concentration. My parents try to outwit one another at it. They started out at it around the same time, but this is something they will not do together. When one cannot finish a Sudoku puzzle, the other gladly does so, quite relishing the prospect of being one up. Over the years they have got better at and learned many things that probably neither had the slightest inkling of, when they got married. Like giving us the best on a limited budget, putting themselves last, putting the children first,  putting out strong shoulders and sensible advice, snuffing out any illusions that we may have had about not trying our best. Sudoku is just another of those things they learned together along the way.

And now, recently, there are pictures where my father is shaking his inhaler, preparing to take it in. My mother also has her share of medicines. New routines – for dealing with slowing down physical and mental capabilities.

There are several of him reading newspapers. It is a solitary activity, during which he will not brook any interruption. I suspect if he had sent pictures of her, it would be of her favorite solitary activities, of reading her books, or writing, or playing solitaire, or knitting something for one of us.

When two people live and explore life together, things are interesting and romantic. They is also often mundane and repetitive. Some things they do together, and others they do separately. But that is not the point. The point is that only when both are there, their lives “happen”. Without the other being present, each one’s life would go unobserved, without witness or chronicle, a chain of events no “other” would, in intimacy, share or remember.

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